The bus stop, continued

I posted the beginning of a story last week and asked the visitors to my blog to vote on how it should continue. The choices were:

  1. Martha is John’s wife and she’s mentally ill. She ran away from home and he’s been looking for her.
  2. John is Martha’s abusive stepfather and she finally escaped from him. Now he’s found her.
  3. Martha’s an escaped convict and John is a cop or a bounty hunter.
  4. Martha is someone John loved long ago and he just happenend to run into her.

Now you can read which direction most people voted I continue the story…(you may want to read the beginning first):


“I’m, John,” he said. “Your husband…” He tried to see something familiar in her eyes, but they were black and deep and dark.

Still clinging to the bus stop sign, she righted herself and brushed off the front of her coat. The bus pulled away from the stop, leaving a puff of diesel in the air. Martha looked after it.

“Damn, I missed my bus. You got a quarter?”

John was blank. He had spent the last seven months looking for her and now she seemed to either not know who he was, or not care.

“Do you know who I am?” he said.

Her eyes flitted about, unfocused. She glanced at him for an instant and then away, at something. Maybe it was the bus that had left, maybe it was nothing. She shrugged.

“Can we talk? Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

She said nothing for a long moment. “If I go with you, will you give me fare for the bus?”

“Sure,” he said.

They slid into seats of a booth at the coffee shop across the street. Martha picked up the menu for an instant and flopped it back on the table. She stared out the window while mindlessly picking at her fingernails.

Now that they were indoors, he could smell the filth, the odor that crept out of her pores. He knew there might be a chance she’d be living on the streets, just like when he’d met her. Still, he didn’t expect her to be like this.

“The kids miss you, they ask about you every day,” he said.

Her eyes shot at him like a pistol. “Why do you say that? What did you do with my children?”

“Our children are at home, where you left them.” He emphasized our children.

A wrinkle formed on her forehead, the one that he loved to see when she was confused or trying to remember something.

“Are you my husband?” Her voice turned up at the end with uncertainty.

“Yes, Martha. I’m John, your husband. We’re married and we have two children, Jenna and Matt.”

“Ah,” she said, gazing out the window again.

The waitress whisked by, poured coffee in their cups and John ordered for both of them. When she went to next table, Martha was still staring out the window.


She leaned in at him, the fury gone from her eyes. They sparkled a bit of blue from the brightness outside.

“Why did you –,” the words caught in his throat. “– why did you leave?”

“Peanuts,” she said.

“Can you repeat that?”

“Pea – nuts,” she said slowly, like a parent would speak to a young child.

He shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

“The bad men left peanuts on the counter. They came out of the jar and started marching around and telling me what to do.”

“The peanuts.”


She fidgeted in her seat, pulled up her sleeve and scratched her grimy skin. “Look, are you going to give me bus fare, or what?”

“I’ll give you the fare after we eat.” He took a bite of his toast. He wasn’t at all hungry but didn’t want to her run.

“Fine,” she said. And in the same way he’d remembered, she picked up her fork and ate her breakfast elegantly.

I feel like I don’t even know this woman, John thought.

But little movements, like the way she ate her eggs, told him she was still Martha.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dayner
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 23:25:44

    I like the angle you picked, I think I voted for this one too. You left off with a cliffhanger, please don’t leave us hanging for very long.
    This has good conflict, he loves her but she smells 🙂 and doesn’t really know who he is. You could make this into a full length novel. Maybe next Nano if you can wait that long.


    • kathanink
      Feb 10, 2010 @ 15:57:55

      I always do the cliffhanger endings…I’m so terrible (really, it’s because I don’t know what else to do with it!). It was sort of the basis of the novel that I almost wrote for Nano, but changed at the last minute (remember)? We’ll see what I can do with it, I’m not sure yet…


  2. Walk
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 20:27:03

    If not a novel then a short story at least. As Natasha said, very good hook, you left us wanting more.


    • kathanink
      Feb 10, 2010 @ 15:54:21

      Walk, thanks for reading my story! I am going to think about doing something about this story, because I like it so far and think I can do more with it. Thanks for the encouragement… 🙂


  3. darksculptures
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 12:40:06

    Ah, you have expanded the epic struggle of John and Martha. I really like what you did with this story – of course I do – I voted for the ending. LOL

    I think if you changed the character names and expanded it beyond this small scene you would have a real heart warming love story.


    • kathanink
      Feb 09, 2010 @ 13:07:23

      Thanks! LOL about changing their names, I was wondering if I should do that! I am actually liking this story and wondering if it would make a good full length novel. Hmmmm…


      • Natasha
        Feb 09, 2010 @ 20:17:02

        There is definitely a ‘hook’ with that. I heard (part of) an interesting interview on NPR a week or two ago about a person with amnesia. He was in the Peace Corps or he had a Fulbright or something and he had a bunch of shots before going abroad, which may or may not have contributed to him going pretty much crazy. Of course, I had gotten to the grocery store or rehearsal or wherever before the interview was over and so I didn’t get to hear the whole thing, but it was very interesting to hear him talk about drifting in and out of knowing who people were. You might want to find it and listen to it if you decide to follow up with this story.


        • kathanink
          Feb 10, 2010 @ 15:56:35

          Ooooh, thanks for the lead. I was thinking she is paranoid or schizophrenic or something because I’ve known some people with those diseases and felt compelled to write about them. It was sort of the basis of the novel that I almost wrote for Nano, but changed at the last minute (remember)? But I can use any resources that might help me understand mental illness more. BTW, this happened to a friend of mine (whom I lost touch with after he went more or less crazy).


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